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1.14.2012

Kindle thoughts


When I was a kid, I lived for three years on a small missions base in the southern Philippines. When I or one of my friends got a new book, it was a big deal. We ordered books from Scholastic, but when there are no bookstores and the school library hasn't been restocked in forty years, those Scholastic orders were pretty much the life and breath of our literary discoveries. I remember when Scholastic sent my friend Colleen a complimentary copy of Dealing With Dragons, and we thought "this is not our kind of book," but then we read it, sitting next to each other on her covered porch, and then we shared it one by one with all of our friends. We did that with The Ordinary Princess, by M. M. Kaye, and a number of others as well. A book was never just ours. It circulated.

Looking back, it occurs to me that that was the first book club I'd ever been a part of. We all read the same things, and then we incorporated them into our conversations, our classes, our play (we made a paper machĂȘ dragon in sixth grade and named it after Kazul from Dealing With Dragons). There are certain books I still feel compelled to do that with. When I finish an adult classic, my impulse is to tell people to go out and buy that book - because it's something they should own, something they should sit with. But when I read a good children's or teen novel, my impulse is to pass it on. I don't feel the need to keep my copy of The Hunger Games or The Graveyard Book all tidy on my shelf. I want to share it. To hand it over to someone and say, "You might enjoy this, and if you don't get around to it, you'll find someone else who will."

In the couple weeks I've owned a Kindle, I have realized that this one thing is missing. The ability to share. Lending doesn't count. None of the people I would loan my Kindle books to have the same digital device, if they have one at all. It wouldn't be such a bother, except that the books I wouldn't share, or the books I would expect back in good condition and relatively short order, are the books I'd want sitting on my shelf - not the ones I would download.

It is also interesting how differently people experience this medium. And I wonder, given that the medium is the message, what sort of message I'm acquiring here.

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